A Mother and Her Shattering Son

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Chapter 1 – A Colorful World Filled with War

A world filled with dolls and crystals sounds like a place of wonder and happiness, but this isn’t so of this world. The Crystallis, who are dolls that originate from the crystal, became so prideful of their beauty that they were corrupted by it. Because of this corruption, they attacked the Flos, who are dolls that originate from the beauty of the world. The Flos are skilled when it comes to reasoning and strategy, however, the Crystallis excel in brute strength. The Flos and Crystallis have fought their war to a standstill and are still fighting a brutal world war that has ravaged this once beautiful world.

In all the chaos, innocents are naturally caught in the crossfire. Rosalia’s son, Rhodes, had been caught in an area effect spell that cursed him with decay so that his body slowly falls apart. Rosalia’s husband sacrificed himself so that the two could survive. Several other family members were caught in this spell, but enough managed to survive to fend off the invasion of Crystallis. A cure for Rhodes would’ve been easier to get back in the time of peace, but the only place in the world that holds the cure is in the center of conflict where both sides are constantly fighting each other day in and out, which is the origin point of both dolls. If Rosalia can bring Rhodes to the healing springs, then he can be cured. Despite being told the near impossible odds by repeatedly her neighbors, she goes out in the hopes that she can make it in time.

Currently, Rhodes has been falling apart but is in a coma-like state where he is vaguely aware of what’s around him. Rosalia has been carrying him on her back as she traverses the crystal forests. Since the world is at war, the vegetation in the forest has become hostile to everything that isn’t them as well. Rosalia has used a spell to make her left arm into a dangerous claw for self-defense.  Her right leg and left heel have become deadly sharp tools as well.

As Rosalia makes her way through the forest, she says to her son, “I wish you could’ve seen this forest when it was friendly. It used to shine more and give out delicious fruit. Now, everything here is dangerous, so we have to be careful.”

Rhodes whimpers a bit.

“Oh, I know you’ve been upset about me sacrificing pieces of myself so you can live. It doesn’t bother me, see? Each piece of me helps you continue living. Your mom isn’t upset nor am I weakened by it. I don’t need another eye if I can’t see you smile another day. Besides, even if we are separated, you will always have a piece of me with you.”

Rhodes reaches out for his mother’s hands. Rosalia pulls him around so she can hold him.

“Don’t you worry, my little prince. We’ll get you cured then we can live happily together. You’ll go to school, become a man, and maybe even get married. I’ll have to approve of your choice, of course, but then again, I shouldn’t be saying about that given the person I chose.

Or should I be blaming your father for choosing me? Who am I kidding? It was both our faults. We got into a lot of trouble the two of us, but it was worth it so you could be born. I just wish his relatives could accept our love for each other.”

A chiming in the forest gets Rosalia’s attention. She puts Rhodes behind her and activates a shield spell that creates a shell to protect him. Rhodes senses the danger as well and holds his hands close to his face.

“You’re going to be safe, my little prince. Nothing will beat me when your life is at stake.”

Shadows dart from hiding place to hiding place in order to get a good opening to attack. Since Rosalia isn’t giving them any opportunities, the Crystallis hunters attack her with one combined attack. The three jump up in the air and plunge their blades towards her. She blocks their blades as her claw arm turns into a shield. Since their blades are so heavy, she lowers herself then dodges to the side and uses her leg blade. It stretches out and cuts the heart core of two of the hunters, which shatters them. The last one manages to block the attack but is hit into a living plant that breaks the hunter into pieces.

The violence has made the vegetation in the forest extremely aggressive. The trees start uprooting themselves and attacking Rosalia. She defends herself as best as she can by leaping around while cutting down the trees and fauna. Since the forest itself is a constantly growing, old, and large entity, Rosalia stands no chance against it. Fully exhausted, she holds Rhodes as he cries.

“It’s okay. It’s going to be okay, little prince.”

A sudden realization then comes to her head.

“If violence is what upsets the forest, then maybe love can calm it down. How about a song? I was going to sing to this you later to lull you to sleep, my little prince, but it looks like I’ll have to now.

 

I know when to take it slow

And when to run at the speed of light

I know when to be patient

And when to act without thinking

 

I know when to smile

And when to cry

I know when to think with my heart

And how to always love

But I don’t know how to love like you do

 

When you love for no other reason than to love

When you love for no other reason than to love

For the sake of love

 

I know how to love when I’m loved

But you love even when you’re hated

I know how to love when the sun is shining

But you love even when the storms roar

 

I know how to love when I’m happy

But you love even when you’re in pain

I know to love when everyone loves

But you love when no else loves

How do you do it

 

When you love for no other reason than to love

When you love for no other reason than to love

For the sake of love?

 

Teach me how to love when I’m hated

Teach me how to love in dark times

Teach me how to love when I’m cold

Please, my love. Please teach me, my love

Teach me how to love for the sake of love”

Rhodes laughs and waves his hands around as if trying to clap. The vegetation and fauna of the forest go back to where they come from and rest. Rosalia breathes a sigh of relief then kisses her son.

“Did you like it? I hope you did. Let’s hurry out of here before more hunters come.”

Rosalia casts a healing spell on herself as she quickly runs to the fastest way out of the forest.

 

Chapter 2 – Causalities and Captives

Once she’s walked for a long stretch, Rosalia finally makes it to civilization though it is a bit small. It is a small village town that appears to have been recently affected by the war as people repair their broken buildings and homes. Destroyed crops are being plucked out of the ground as new ones are planted. Pieces of dying dolls are passed onto their families so they can continue to carry their family’s legacy while the enemy dolls are put together then wrapped honorably. Before, the Flos used to send carts of Crystallis doll shells to the enemy as a sign of respect for their enemy, but the Crystallis destroyed most of the carts because the Crystallis view the hollow shells of their comrades as useless and valueless. During these recent times, the Flos just bury the shells of their enemies in their own special grave site away from the graves of the Flos.

One of the normal civilians says, “I don’t get it. Why do we need to respect the bodies of their dead when they don’t do the same for their own? I’ve heard horror stories of what they do to the bodies of our soldiers. We should burn them all in a fire because that’s where their souls end up anyway!”

“Don’t be so disrespectful. I’ve heard dozens of reports that say some of the Crystallis travel over to honor their dead,” a relative responds.

“It’s just their pride that makes them do this,” a villager says, “Besides, we shouldn’t be like the savages.”

“You’re right. We should take the Crystallis that come over and hold them for ransom!”

“Stop saying and thinking such things! You’re no different than them if you truly think this way.”

Rosalia approaches the hateful person and says, “He’s right you know. We should find ways to love our enemies and be respectful to their dead. Being as evil as the worst of them is only going to make things worse.”

“Hmph.”

The hateful person walks away while their relative walks with them.

“We don’t see many understanding people like you around here. What brings you to our recovering little town?”

“I’m just passing through. My own little town was recently attacked by the Crystallis and my baby boy here was affected by a terrible spell. I have to get him to the springs to have him cured.”

“That’s a dangerous journey, but I won’t stop you from taking it. Some of our city guards would accompany you along the way, but whoever we have left are guarding us as we repair our homes and I don’t think we can spare even one.”

“I understand. I pray that your town stays safe.”

“You’re a strong mother. What is your name?”

“Rosalia.”

“Rosalia…I’ve heard that name somewhere before. You don’t happen to famous, do you?”

“If I was, I wouldn’t look like this.”

“That makes sense. Rosalia must be just a memorable name then. Is there a reason why you still defend the Crystallis even though they just destroyed your home?”

“Because they’re dolls like us. Even though they come from the crystal, we were still made in the same place by the same creator. We may think differently, but we’re still related, and our lives are both equally beyond value.”

“I see. Well, I’m sorry for taking up so much of your time. You can take some of our healing fragments to give your boy a little more time.”

“Thank you so much.”

“Don’t mention it.”

After healing Rhodes a little, Rosalia says goodbye then leaves the town. She travels down the roads as they should be safer than the forest though not by much. There’s still a chance the Crystallis might come down the roads or the forest might come to life and reach out to crush her.

Rosalia says to Rhodes, “I’m glad the townsfolk didn’t recognize me. There would’ve been trouble if they did. Anyway, let me tell you more about your father since he won’t be able to tell you himself. He was a brave and proud man. He risked everything he had including his life to be with me since he was from a royal family. The way he loved people and nature was breathtaking. He loved being in love with everything and everyone so much that he wrote songs and poems about almost everything. It’s where I get my songs from.”

Ahead of Rosalia is an incoming band of Crystallis. They have a huge black bull under their control, which is a huge black beast with black horns, a white face, and red and black eyes in this world. It struggles against the control of its captors along with the other creatures that have been captured.

“Poor things,” she says to herself as she hides on the side of the road in a tree, “The raiding party is headed towards the town. They won’t be able to fight against the bull and the other creatures along with the Crystallis. I want to do something, but what am I going to do?”

Rosalia thinks of a couple of plans before deciding on one course of action. She throws two fire darts, conjured by a spell, at the chains that bind the bull to free it. Once it’s free, it puts the Crystallis into a panic. While the bull rampages about, Rosalia frees the rest of the creatures. Once she does, the black bull stares her down with its face in hers. Neither her nor Rhodes are intimated, and this silent show of courage gains Rosalia the respect of the bull and creatures.

A larger party of Crystallis that’s half the size of a legion then show up in the distance. This party was dragged ahead by the creatures, who were craving violence. Now that they’re free, they rage against their captors along with Rosalia. They destroy everything around them with the aid of the forest. Fauna and vegetation come to life as some of the creatures are shattered in battle. Despite the strength of the Crystallis, the numbers and overall strength of nature and Rosalia overwhelm them.

Once the dust settles, the forest closes in on Rosalia, but the black bull and leftover creatures silently pick up for her. The vegetation and fauna return to the forest and the creatures do the same. The black bull nuzzles Rosalia’s face and pets the top of Rhodes’ head, which makes him giggle. It then goes back into the forest while looking back at the two. It accidentally bumps into a large tree and gets slapped by it, which makes Rosalia laugh. The black bull then pays attention to where it’s going after one last look back with a smile.

Rhodes giggles again.

Rosalia continues on her way as she says, “See? Not all of nature is bad. Now, where was I? Oh yeah. Your father loved singing and making songs. Here’s one that I remember that he sang every other day.

 

I can’t be away from you any longer

But part of me still resists

I wish I was stronger

 

When we are together,

It feels like Heaven

When I leave you,

Part of me is left behind

 

You give my empty life meaning

I finally have a person who loves me back

You have woken me up from my foolishness

I know what I must do

 

Because I can’t be without you any longer

You are who keeps me going

You are who makes me stronger

 

I’ll endure all the hardships

Fight all the battles

And suffer the worst pain

Because I can’t be without you any longer

I am reinvigorated because of you

I am reborn into a new man ready to take on the world

Whatever you request, you will have

Whatever you command, I will obey

 

You say that you’re not worth it

That you’re not worth anything

But you’re worth more than you think

You’re my light that brightens up the darkness

 

You give my empty life meaning

I finally have a person who loves me back

You have woken me up from my foolishness

I know what I must do

Because I can’t be without you any longer

You are who keeps me going

You are who makes me stronger

 

I’ll endure all the hardships

Fight all the battles

And suffer the worst pain

Because I can’t be without you any longer

 

I will do all you want and more

My love for you knows no boundaries or obstacles

So,

Will you please be with me forever?”

 

Rosalia feels something watching her. She turns around to see the black bull watching her. It appears to have been attracted by her singing, but now it goes back into the forest as if it is embarrassed to be caught listening to her singing. Rosalia smiles at the creature’s cute nature despite its looks.

“Your father might as well have been a love bird for all the love he showed to others. He was more charitable and loving than his relatives to the point where people were wondering if he was an angel. I thought a person like him was beyond my reach, but when I showed how charitable I was when I gave away everything I had on me for a poor person he accidentally missed, he fell for me. Literally and figuratively speaking since he fell off his horse to kiss my hand. It was sad and funny at the same time, haha. I still can’t help but laugh when I remember it happening.

Still, your father did his best to impress me even though he did make a fool of himself a few times…okay, a lot of times. I felt like I didn’t deserve it especially since I couldn’t return anything on the same scale as him, but when I expressed my feelings about this, he said, ‘Don’t you worry. If you give me your love, then I will have something that is worth more than the entire universe’. I don’t know where he came up with his words, but he made me fall for him so many times because of them. Being without him is going to be difficult…”

Rhodes makes a whimpering sound.

“But don’t worry, we’ll make it through this. Your father is always with us in spirit now. Trust me.”

Rhodes giggles and Rosalia smiles as she wipes away her tears and continues traveling down the road.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3 – Nature at its Worst

After a little while of walking, the road becomes lost as the surrounding environment is mostly destroyed with the flames of battle still burning.

“This must be where those Crystallis got their creatures,” Rosalia says to herself.

Because the Crystallis is known for violence and upsetting nature, both they and the Flos have developed their own spell that calms nature around them, so they can battle. This spell only covers the area of battle and takes a lot of energy to produce.

“This is probably why the Crystallis couldn’t produce another spell to protect themselves. Even if they could, the creatures of the forest weren’t giving them any opportunities to act anyways. You see, Rhodes? You have to respect nature otherwise it will turn on you.”

Further into the destruction, Rosalia finds a team of healers who are repairing the forest with their magic.

One of the forest healers approaches Rosalia and says, “Excuse me, miss. You should hurry along in a different direction. It only gets more dangerous from here.”

“I know that, but my baby boy has been afflicted with a spell that can only be healed at the springs.”

“That’s terrible, and you’ve been traveling on your own?”

“Yes, I have.”

“…I guess there’s no getting around it then. Lupin, send out a messenger bird to let them know this woman is coming with her child.”

“Alright.”

The doll conjures a dove made of light after speaking into his hand. The dove flies away in the direction of Rosalia’s destination.

“Thank you for your help,” Rosalia says.

“Don’t mention it. Just make sure that little one gets the healing he needs. I’m sure it’s been hard for you just getting this far. If the army near the springs can spare any troops, they should be meeting you halfway.”

Once they say their goodbyes, Rosalia keeps walking. The forest looks better as she journeys forward, but not by much. Crystal grass and foliage are growing at a fast rate because of the healing spell of the healers though it seems like something is wrong. The newly grown vegetation appears to know it was killed as it violently sways back and forth as if it wants to be reborn faster so it can obtain its revenge. Rosalia eventually meets up with a small group of Flos soldiers.

One of them says, “You’re the mother we’ve been looking for. It’s an honor to meet a woman who will risk her life and skin for her son.”

“Thank you for coming out to escort me. It’s been rough.”

“I can imagine. Let’s hurry along then. The fighting near the spring has calmed down for the past couple days so you should be able to bring your boy there with no trouble.”

The band of soldiers escorts Rosalia with her in the center to guard her against attacks from all possible directions.

A soldier asks her, “What’s your name?”

“Rosalia.”

“Hmmm. That name sounds familiar.”

“A guy in the town close to here said the same.”

“It’s a rare, but memorable name.”

“That’s because of a woman by the name of Rosalia was one of the reasons this war started,” another soldier interjects.

“Now I remember why that name is so memorable.”

Feeling awkward, Rosalia says, “But I’m not that Rosalia.”

“I wish I knew which Rosalia was that one so I could ask her what she was thinking. I’m not mad at her because I know that her action was only the straw that broke the camel’s back and nothing incredibly important on its own. Marriages between Flos and Crystallis aren’t as rare as they seem.”

“Still, she should’ve known better,” another soldier comments.

“It should’ve been a more private marriage.”

“How could it have been when she married royalty?”

“What happened to the husband anyway?”

“He was supposed to be hiding out with Rosalia, but I’ve heard that the Crystallis sent a group of its most powerful warriors to kill them and the word going around is that the husband is dead, but a number of people who were hiding out with him are alive including his wife and their child.”

Some of the soldiers start becoming suspicious of Rosalia and start looking at her funny.

She says, “But I’m not who you’re thinking about.”

A soldier says, “There’s no way this Rosalia is the one we’re thinking about. This Rosalia cares so much for her child while the other one was selfish. Do you really think that a peasant who wanted to marry royalty would risk her life this way?”

“That Rosalia is probably hiding herself with her husband’s riches ten feet under,” another soldier adds.

This relieves the tension in the group as Rosalia quietly breathes a sigh of relief.

“Hey, I don’t remember the forest being this big when we first passed through here.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Be on your guard.”

The soldiers unsheathe their weapons as they move slower while paying attention to everything in their surroundings. A large tree then falls on them to separate the group before fighting against the group to further separate them and push them into the incoming hordes of fauna and vegetation. The group gets separated further as the creatures of the forest break the group apart to make them easier to shatter.

The black bull from before comes to rescue Rosalia as it charges through swarms of creatures. It gives Rosalia enough room to breathe. Since the black bull is dangerous, the forest uses its connection to the creature to try to bring it under its control. The bull’s mental strength is weak, but it doesn’t give in to the forest’s influence, however, it can’t completely control itself, so it smashes everything around it in the hopes that Rosalia won’t be one of them. Unfortunately, Rosalia is hit while using the bull’s rampage as a chance to escape. She is hit into a tree but manages to get away from it before it can shatter her.

Rosalia is surrounded by fauna and vegetation while she is heavily injured. She is trying to heal herself, but she can’t do it fast enough to the point where she can run fast or leap into the air. The forest appears to be livid because it was burned and torn down. Singing looks like it won’t help this time, so she grips Rhodes and covers him as much as possible as a single fauna approaches her with its blade-like arm out ready to strike.

The anticipation of it kills her, so she brings her head up in time for the fauna’s blade to enter her missing eye. Since a doll’s shell is mostly empty with the only thing in it being its core, she feels no pain.

Rosalia says, “Shatter me, but spare my son. Please, save his life when I am dead.”

The fauna pulls back its blade again then brings its blade down on Rosalia’s neck but only makes a small crack on her neck. This supreme act of true love calms down the forest and it gives Rosalia respect that few dolls have. The creatures and fauna bow to her and let her walk away. Despite walking away with her life, she’s still injured and is slowing healing herself. Rhodes senses his mother’s injuries and cries for her.

“Don’t worry about me, my little prince. I’ll be fine.”

He continues to cry.

“Shhh.

Don’t be upset

I am here

Don’t be afraid

I’ll always be with you

 

Look at me and see my smile

I am telling the truth

You can always trust me

 

We’ll always be together

No matter the distance

No matter what happens

Even in death, even when I’m gone

We’ll always be together

 

Your weakness means nothing to me

You’re stronger than the tallest mountains

Braver than the mightiest heroes

No matter what happens, I will always love you

 

We’ll always be together

No matter the distance

No matter what happens

Even in death, even when I’m gone

We’ll always be together

 

I may not always be next to you

You may not always feel my presence

But our bond is permanent

Nothing can break it

I’m always here

I’m always with you

Forever and ever

Just look in your heart

And you will see me, always with you”

 

Rhodes has fallen asleep with a smile on his face. Rosalia smiles as well as she’s finally healed herself enough to numb the pain as she continues on to her destination.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4 – Hunted for the Crime of Love

Rosalia’s healing magic allows her to be mostly healed, however, it and the previous battles have exhausted her. She collapses from exhaustion, but she makes sure to have Rhodes on top of her, so she doesn’t suffocate him. Sensing his mother’s unconscious state, he cries out for help and receives it not long after. Rosalia is taken to a relief camp where victims of this violent war are taken to be healed and to be helped. She awakens in a bed just in time to overhear a conversation between two Flos.

“She’s definitely the Rosalia who married that Crystallis prince. Several people have confirmed it.”

“But is she everything the rumors say she is? The soldiers that carried her here said that she’s been sacrificing her life to save her son and that she gained the respect of the forest. How rare is that? Even our best mystics can’t manage that.”

“We have to keep her here. Even though she has her sympathizers, there are still people who want her dead, shattered into pieces then throw into fire.”

“What about her son?”

“They don’t care as much for him. There are some that say Flos and Crystallis relationships and their children are illicit, but this is a mindset that has only popped up recently.”

“We need to get her to the springs, or her boy is going to die. How are we going to proceed with this?”

“We aren’t that far from the main army camp near that location.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy going through the crowds then going through the dead lands to get to the springs.”

“We’ll have to do something and quickly. We’ve healed her son, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve given him time we can waste.”

“Excuse me? Can I see Rosalia?”

“Who are you? Are you a relative or a friend? Hey, you can’t go in until-hey!”

A loud knock on the window close to Rosalia startles her. When she looks over, she sees a Flos civilian with a weapon.

He breaks the window and says, “Die you cursed woman!”

Rosalia dodges the man’s attacks as he enters the room as she says, “I didn’t do anything to you!”

“You were the final nail that started this war! My family is dead because of you! They died in Crystallis territory. Who knows what those cursed dolls did to their remains?”

Rosalia tries to cut the arms off her assailant to incapacitate him, but she accidentally cuts his head off as well. The man swings around violently while screaming out in bloody vengeance. Something shakes the building she’s in until it breaks into her room. It’s the black bull from before.

“Aren’t you a sweetie for always coming to my aid?” Rosalia says while petting it, “Now, come on. Let’s get out of here!”

Rosalia takes Rhodes and put him on his back with his shield protecting him as she gets on the back of the black bull. Several Flos attempt to shatter Rosalia by throwing spears, hammers, and swords at her.

“Kill that woman, but don’t hit the baby!”

“Cut the legs off the black bull first!”

The Flos then try to take down the black bull, but their weapons bounce off its thick skin. They then get on horseback and chase after Rosalia. She knocks them off their horses as she protects herself and her child from her assailants. The black bull swipes at them to shatter several off their horses.

“We can’t do anything! Pull back!”

“You’re under arrest!”

Rosalia looks back to see a few guards arresting the people who were attacking her. A guard waves at her and she waves back as a sign of thanks. Even Rhodes waves back with a smile.

“Okay, big guy. We need to get to the springs. Can you get us there?” Rosalia asks the black bull.

It smiles and snorts in response as it goes faster.

“Woah! Easier there! We don’t really have anything keeping us on you.”

The black bull wants to be careful but can’t because it senses danger ahead of them, so it charges ahead faster.

“Be careful! Are you trying to knock us off? What’s got you riled up?”

A barrage of various kinds of magical arrows comes raining down upon Rosalia. The black bull covers Rosalia as it turns over on its side to take the arrow barrage. A group of Crystallis assassins then appear out of the shadows.

“It seems like she came to us on her own. That’s good,” one of them says.

The barrage of arrows has temporarily incapacitated the black bull, which leaves Rosalia open for attack. Fortunately for her, the forest is on her side and a tree’s vines block the assassins’ attacks. It then comes to life and shatters her attackers and uses its healing magic on the black bull.

“Thank you,” Rosalia says to the forest as she gets back on top of the black bull.

She rides off to her destination, which should be close now.

She then says, “You heard it, my little prince. You’re the son of royalty and a peasant. The son of a Flos and Crystallis. I didn’t think our love would be the final thing to push our people into war because our love was pure, but that’s what happens when people hate each other. They use every excuse they can find to kill the people they don’t like. Don’t be like that, my little prince. Learn to love everyone around you. It doesn’t matter if they hate you. Always wish the best for the people around you because if you aren’t willing to love them then who will? Everyone makes mistakes, so be willing to forgive them and you will always be forgiven.”

The black bull then senses something and charges ahead. It takes Rosalia and Rhodes to a cliff where they see a large battle between Flos and Crystallis soldiers. Dozens of dolls are shattered while others suffer in pain as they’re carried out by their companions and healers.

“This fighting has to stop.”

The forest heeds Rosalia’s plea and moves to stop the fighting. Unfortunately, the fighting and suffering make nature violent as it fights back against those who fight its restraints. Even the black bull is itching to join the fight, but Rosalia calms it down by calmly rubbing the back of its neck.

“The forest might be in a rage, but since I have its respect then a song could calm it down. This song is for, my little prince.

 

I close my eyes and see

A world that’s beautiful and filled with glee

Even in the dark and gloom

A place past all of the doom

 

Everyone has lost hope

They think I’ve lost my mind

But all they do is mope

Are they blind?

We can live in a better world of our dreams

 

Every day I push ahead

For the dreams in my head

The dreams that keep me awake

That keeps me going

To bring you a place to keep your love glowing

I’ll build you a place

That is perfect for your smiling face

Each part of it is made to make you happy

For those gloomy days

 

Everyone has lost hope

They think I’ve lost my mind

But all they do is mope

Are they blind?

We can live in a better world of our dreams

 

Every day I push ahead

For the dreams in my head

The dreams that keep me awake

That keeps me going

To bring you a place to keep your love glowing

 

No matter how small

No matter how tall the obstacle

I will be with you through it all

Nothing will be impossible for you and me

To make the world I see in my dreams

To make the world I see in my dreams

Every day I push ahead

For the dreams in my head

The dreams that keep me awake

That keeps me going

To bring you a place to keep your love glowing

 

Together we’ll make this world anew

Everything I do is for you

Know that our dreams will come true

Of The World I’ll Give To You

 

I am going to make sure you live in a better world, my little prince. A world of happiness, love, and peace. It’s going to happen one day. Just you wait and see.”

The forest successful restrains both armies and transfers its calming feelings to the soldiers who retreat with their wounded and shattered brethren. Some even help their enemies gather their bearings. As Rosalia smiles, parts of her son start to fall. A branch from the forest heals him, but his condition has worsened.

“Don’t worry now, my little prince. We’re almost there.”

The black bull sprints at full speed to the springs, where a massive battle larger than this one is about to take place.

 

 

 

Chapter 5 – A Mother’s Duty

Even before reaching the area around the springs, Rosalia knew she was going to have a tough time. The forest around the around is completely dead. It senses that Rosalia will need help, but it’s too weak to regrow anything and all the nearby fauna and creatures are still recovering. Broken siege weapons and the shattering pieces of soldiers litter the ground. The stench of death is pungent in the air and the sounds of despair and anger echo.

Ahead of Rosalia is a large Flos encampment that has been made into a miniature castle with a wall and various small guard towers around it. The fighting has gone on for so long that you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking this encampment was a small town for how large it is. There are other encampments like it around the springs, but this one is the command site and the largest. Rosalia heads into the camp once the guards recognize her.

A Flos commander meets up with her, and says, “You’ve come a long way through dangerous obstacles to come here, Rosalia. It’s impressive for a mother with a past such as yours.”

“I don’t think you want to cause me any trouble.”

“Oh no, we don’t harbor any feelings of hate towards you. We just want to get your son to the springs. I don’t even think what you did counts as a crime that we can punish.”

“Good. Do you have a plan? My son doesn’t have long.”

“Yes, but it’ll be messy. I think it’s best if you stay here.”

“I have my black bull and the forest can come to my aid. I can come with you.”

“Can’t you command your bull and the forest to protect us? Why do you have to come with us?”

“I’m a mother. I’m supposed to protect my child.”

“I see. Since it doesn’t look like I can change your mind, we’ll start moving out.” The commander then turns to his soldiers. “Come on, men! We don’t have much time!”

The forces of the Flos start deploying and put protection mages around Rosalia so they can form a shield to protect her. The other encampments deploy their forces to attack the Crystallis ahead of time to clear a path for her. Once they head out, they see the Crystallis army heading for them. Both armies converge on the springs in the middle of the battlefield as their siege weapons launch their barrages on both sides. The battlefield becomes a violent mess of soldiers as Rosalia makes her way to the springs. The shield protecting her is quickly destroyed and the mages who made them are taken out. Other Flos soldiers come to her aid, but they have to engage with the Crystallis in order to protect her and aren’t able to stay by her side.

A barrage of fireballs land near Rosalia, which knocks her off the black bull. The area around her is mostly clear and the springs are in sight, so she makes a run for it as the barrages continue to rain from the sky. The black bull sees that one of them is about to directly hit her, so it leaps out to protect her from it, but is shattered into pieces.

“Thank you,” Rosalia whispers as she runs with everything she’s got.

The springs are only steps away when an arrow barrage comes down upon her. Most of the arrows manage to hit her and pierce through her shield. The last arrows pierce through her core, but she manages to put Rhodes in the springs.

“I love you, my little prince,” she says as she shatters.

As Rhodes lays in the springs, his body not only heals but he is also transformed.

Crystal robes made for a king, eyes like the moon, hair as red as fire, and doll shell like the finest porcelain. Since Rosalia’s death, the forest has gone on a rampage. It breaks through both the Flos and Crystallis forces to the springs where it mourns her death for a few seconds before focusing its rage on the Crystallis army.

Rhodes then says to the forest, “No. Do not do this. Spare them. My mother wanted a world of peace and love, and that is what I will give to her.”

Seeing that the forest has trouble controlling itself, Rhodes begins to sing a song to calm it down. Rosalia and his father join him in spirit to strengthen his song.

 

“You might be weak

But you are also strong

You might be angry

But I’ve seen you happy

You might hate

But you can love

 

And because of this

 

You are everything to me

You are all I’ll ever need

Even when the world is falling apart

Even when life takes its toll

You will always be my everything

 

 All the wealth

All the diamonds in the world

Everything in the universe is nothing compared to you

 

Your value is limitless

Nothing is worth exchanging for you

If your life were in danger, I’d give my life so you could live

 

And because of this

 

You are everything to me

You are all I’ll ever need

Even when the world is falling apart

Even when life takes its toll

You will always be my everything

 

You are everything to me

You are all I’ll ever need

Even when the world is falling apart

Even when life takes its toll

You will always be my everything”

 

The forest calms down and releases energy that calms down everyone on the battlefield. The springs burst forth and showers the battlefield. There is no longer any hatred between the two armies. No one feels like fighting anymore and the two sides come together and apologize for what they’ve done and promise to stop fighting. The vegetation around the springs spring back to life as love being is spread. The springs themselves begin to spread throughout the world because of the sacrifice of Rosalia and shower the world with its calming waters.

Rhodes hears in his head his mother’s voice that says, “The war will end very soon. I told you that I would make sure that you would live in a world of peace, happiness, and love. I may not have expected it to be this way, but I know you’ll be happy and safe. Find the love of your life and don’t let them go.”

“I will. Thank you, mom.”

 

The End

The Thieves and the Child They Orphaned

Download the story for free on Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/908510

 

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Isaiah 64: 6

Chapter 1 – Doing Penance

We’ve might’ve made a mistake, Sylvia.

Yeah, it was not killing the kid before he could do this to us. He would’ve been with his parents right now if we did, and now we’re stuck with him and stuck with each other like this.

Who was that who put us like this? It seemed like it was God Himself.

Why would He have any beef with us? We don’t do anything that’s evil. In fact, if we did, then we’ve made it up with our heroics.

You got that right. This situation isn’t that bad in my opinion.

I know it isn’t, Simon. At least we know exactly what each other is thinking.

As if we didn’t know already.

“Is the coast clear yet?”

“Not yet, kid.”

“What did my parents ever do to you? Why did you kill them?”

“Nothing. They were just another target on our list. They did nothing but keep themselves happy and never tried to help others.”

“I’ve been trying to get them to do that. If you only gave them more time, then they would’ve helped more people than our family.”

“We didn’t mean to kill your parents. It was an accident. We don’t kill at all unless we need to. The bullets we use are non-lethal.”

“Then why did you try killing me?!”

“Because that’s one of our policies. If we accidentally kill a loved one, we have to kill everyone else who they love if they’re in the same house so they can die together. If they aren’t home, then we leave or send them a valuable gift as a way of saying sorry.”

“Your first way of making things right is horrible.”

“I think it’s a mercy. Do you know how hellish it is living without the people you love? We do. That’s why we do what we do. We lost people close to us by greedy people, so now we’re the Good Thieves.”

“The “Good” Thieves?”

“Yeah, don’t add quotations. We take from the greedy, whether they’re rich or poor, and give to those they hurt. You may have heard of us in the news. We’re pretty popular.”

“Is that why you’re being hunted down now?”

“Probably. We thought this would never happen, but I guess we stepped on too many toes. It’s safe to leave now. The one thing that your parents did do that was good was making a well-hidden closet in their room. It was a great hiding place. Whoever came after us really wanted us dead. Just look at how torn up this place is.”

“Can I bury my parents?”

“Sorry, kid, but we can’t now. We have to move if we want to stay alive.”

“My name is Alastair. Stop calling me kid.”

“Okay, kid. You’re with us now because you asked for God’s protection and he gave you to us. We’re your protectors from now on until we can get this curse off us.”

“I guess I have no choice. Let’s leave then.”

“You don’t order us. We do. Let’s go, kid.”

“Why do you always say we and us? Can’t you talk from one perspective? Your voices sound melded together.”

“This is what true love looks like. We trust each other to the point where we can finish each other’s sentences.”

“Wow. Your voices alternated when you said that.”

“Amazing, ain’t it? We still want to be back to normal since it’s better for us.”

“And I would be out of your life.”

“It’s not like that, kid.”

Yeah, it is.

Haha.

“If we’re supposed to be connected together, can you feel the same pain I do?”

“That sounds stupid-ow!”

“It’s true!”

“Then maybe you can feel the pain I inflict on ourself. Feel that?”

“No.”

“What? It’s only one way? That’s terrible.”

“For you it is. Remember that you’re the reason you’re like this.”

“Don’t smart talk us, kid. We’re your protectors now.”

“You’re more like my adoptive parents.”

“Don’t say that. We never wanted any kids especially since our line of work doesn’t allow it.”

“Are you ever going to stop thieving?”

“Not until every greedy man and woman pay for their sins.”

“That’s never going to happen through your efforts alone.”

“That’s fine as long as we get to see the hurt on them that we inflicted.”

“You don’t trust God too much, do you?”

“Can you blame us?”

“Yes, I can.”

“We’re adults. We have experience and wisdom. You should listen to us.”

“If I want to end up in a mess like you did, sure. Being older doesn’t mean you’re an adult.”

I guess he has a point, Sylvia.

Don’t admit that to him, Simon. He’ll just smart talk us more.

“And now we’re here at our little hideout. What do you think?”

“I expected more from such master thieves.”

“The best thieves travel light. Remember that we have to go from one place to another. The greedy don’t live in just one city and in this country.”

I swear we left our laptops somewhere. Let’s check this…oh no.

“Kid, we have to move.”

“What is it?”

“We’re compromised. Someone rigged our room with traps. I’m just taking the essentials with us.”

“Oh great. I thought you two were supposed to be experts.”

“Let’s hustle out of here before-”

“Ahhh!”

“Damn. They triggered the explosives manually. We have to move before they see us leaving. At least we disarmed the simple ones, so the explosion wasn’t as bad.”

“But won’t the small amounts of destruction make them think we survived?”

“Not if it’s all destroyed when we leave. Get clear!”

“Woah! Okay. I think you used too many explosives.”

“That just everything else in our hideout exploding. At least no one else was around the explosion.”

“Where are we going now?”

“Nowhere right now. We want to see who pops up to check if we’re still alive. We have a secret spot above here so we can see who comes without them noticing us.”

“What are you putting together?”

“It’s our special gun. We can turn it into a shotgun, assault rifle, submachine gun, and we’re turning it into a sniper rifle.”

“How did you get that?”

“We made it ourselves. You can make the best things when you’re motivated and bored.”

“My parents used to make the best things for me. They knew how to build and make things, which is why they were so rich.”

“Congratulations. You got parents who knew how to take care of themselves and their own. That’s not an accomplishment of any kind. Even the worst thieves and murderers we know help the people they care about.”

“What do you have against my parents?”

“Didn’t we already tell you? They’re greedy people who only care about themselves and their own.”

“But why?”

“We’ll tell you after this. Do you see those people down there?”

“Yeah, what about them? They look like normal officers to me.”

“Do you see those three lines on their back? A normal person would just think they’re wearing a strange undershirt, but what it really means is that they’re a group of unknown thieves vaguely known only to the thieving underground network.”

“Are they dangerous?”

“Extremely.”

“What are we going to do?”

“Take them out.”

“What? Won’t the other members hunt us down after this?”

“No, there’s only those few down there and…they’re done. Hello, nine-one-one? Do you know about that explosion that just occurred? Yeah, I know you just sent people to investigate it, but you might want to send more. Come on, kid. Let’s find a place to settle down.”

“There were only those few?”

“Yup. We know more about these guys than most. Nothing is more effective than deception and making people anxious about something as simple as the wrinkles on the back of someone’s shirt. They make themselves look big to intimate bigger foes.”

“Now what?”

“We hide our heads for a while before going back to stealing from the greedy.”

“You can’t!”

“You’re right. We don’t want to be responsible for any more children.”

“No, it’s not that. You can’t just take from people and think you’re justified in doing so because they’re evil. You can’t fight greater evil with lesser evil.”

“Both of us were orphaned by greedy people. It was fate that brought us together so that we could deliver justice to them. We aren’t any kind of evil.”

“Can you please stop being so self-righteous? I’m sorry about what happened to you two, but you can’t be like this. This isn’t going to help anyone. It’s more likely that you’ve created more greedy people. You don’t humble people this way.”

“And you’re more moral than us?”

“I was protected by God and you are forced to protect me. What do you think?”

“Ow!”

“Don’t even try to take out your anger on me. I didn’t ask for this situation to occur. This is just the way things are going to be for now.”

“Fine. We might as well properly introduce ourselves then. My name is Simon and my name is Sylvia.”

“My name is Alastair. It’s nice to meet you.”

He didn’t mean that.

I hope he didn’t. The brat’s too good for his age.

“Here, into this house.”

“It looks dirty and abandoned.”

“That’s what makes it a good hiding place. Eat up. You must be hungry.”

“What kind of food is this?”

“The kind that gets you through situations like this.”

“Most of these are sugary snacks.”

“What did you expect, military rations? We don’t need healthy food to keep up our beautiful figures.”

“Oh please.”

“What were you going to do today? You’re awfully well dressed for a normal weekday.”

“I convinced my parents to go to a volunteer charity event. I was in the process of changing them into better people.”

“You convinced them to go? Huh.”

“When’s the last time you did something charitable for someone?”

“It was a few months ago when we accidentally screwed over the wrong person. We gave them everything we took from them, two hundred thousand dollars, and a note saying sorry.”

“Where did you get the two hundred thousand from?”

“The people we were supposed to screw over.”

“That doesn’t count. You’re supposed to use your own money.”

“Kid, all we do is steal.”

“Then get a normal job.”

“That’s never going to happen.”

“It will now that I’m with you.”

“We doubt it.”

“We’ll see. Where am I going to sleep?”

“There’s only one bed. You can take it. We’ll sleep on the floor.”

“You shouldn’t. It’s not good for you.”

“We were homeless for a time in our life. We can handle it.”

“No, it’s fine you can sleep beside me, but I want to sleep next to Sylvia.”

“Why?”

“I’d just be more comfortable next to her.”

Isn’t he sweet?

“You better not try anything to my wife, buddy because remember that you get me too.”

“I wouldn’t even imagine it.”

I don’t know why I feel insulted.

Even when you look like this, you’re the most beautiful woman in the world, Sylvia.

That’s a sweet compliment, but that also makes you the most beautiful woman in the world since we’re in the same body.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

I’m going with good.

“Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Alastair.”

We should find a fast and effective way to get rid of him, Sylvia.

I don’t know. I’m growing attached to him for some reason.

Well if you actually care for him, then we should put him into safer hands. He’s in serious danger with us.

Maybe we can leave him with a better couple.

Right. We’ll have to see after this assassination attempt on us blows over. We’ll get out of this situation. Just you wait.

Right. Good night, honey.

Good night.

 

 

Hear, my child, your father’s instruction, and do not reject your mother’s teaching; for they are a fair garland for your head, and pendants for your neck.” – Proverbs 1: 8-9

Chapter 2 – Becoming Parents

Hey, Simon. Look.

What is it? The kid is holding onto to you. He’s dead when we lose responsibility for him.

Are you jealous?

No!

I know when you’re lying. When’s the last time you cuddled up to me like this?

He’s double dead then.

Doesn’t he look cute like this? His curly hair is fun to play with. I just have to hold him.

Hey, let go.

You can’t move unless I let you.

The same is true for you.

Yeah, but don’t act like you don’t feel what I do.

Sure, I do. Maybe even stronger than you do.

We should get him something to eat. There’s a breakfast shop not too far from here.

Sure, let’s go. Be careful not to wake him up.

Okay, let’s go.

Do you remember what I said yesterday? That we should give him to actual parents?

Yeah, but I feel like we should be his parents now.

Are you kidding me? Do you how much danger he’ll be in?

No one knows the Good Thieves’ faces.

Then how are we going to make a living? Are we really going to take Curly’s advice?

You never know what kind of jobs we’ll take a liking to. It’s not we haven’t worked low wage jobs before and lived in poor conditions before.

That’s right, but what about him? He’s used to living in comfort and luxury. What will he think?

I don’t know, but we’ll try to make him happy to the best of our ability. Remember to keep your head down while you order.

Right.

“We’ll-I’ll have a dozen glazed donuts and three sausage and egg sandwiches.”

“Got it.”

I don’t think you realize either that we can’t get a job like this. What are we going to say to the employer?

We’ll cover it up with makeup.

Even the obvious black line separating our bodies? We have different facial and body features that’ll definitely draw attention to us.

We have to find a way to make it work.

Or we could just go with my plan. It’ll be easier for us and for him.

It being easy doesn’t mean it’s the right thing.

Like we know the right thing to do. Curly is making us rethink our lives.

“Here’s your order, sir.”

“Thank you.”

Let’s just take it one step at a time. I hope he didn’t wake up and think we left him.

Me too. I’m sort of surprised we made it passed that without drawing any attention to us.

Then maybe we can do it every day then.

Let’s take your advice and do this one step at a time.

“Hey, you’re awake, Curly.”

“You’re calling me Curly now?”

“Think of it as a loving nickname. We got you breakfast. We thought that you wouldn’t live on the scraps of food that we are used to.”

“You went out and didn’t get noticed for your appearance?”

“We were hiding it.”

“I’m glad you thought about me. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, but I wish we could do more. Hey, uh. After things blow over, we were thinking about sticking you with a better couple. Our life is too dangerous for you and who knows what will happen later. You must have friends or family that will take you.”

“I don’t. Besides, God stuck you with me, so I’m staying with you. I don’t care if you’re a bit self-righteous. People can change.”

“That’s true, but just look at us. Do you really want us to be your caretakers?”

“If God thinks you can do it, I do too.”

“Fine, Curly. Keep digging yourself an early grave. The good do die young.”

“I’m sure you’ll keep me safe. So, what are we going to do today?”

“Lay low like we said until things blow over. We have enough money and snacks to live on until they do. We also have cards, our laptop, comics, and two handhelds that you can play games on if you want.”

“That sounds boring.”

“What kind of kid doesn’t want to do nothing all day?”

“Me. I did nothing but read books and educate myself when I wasn’t in school.”

“School wasn’t enough for you?”

“School doesn’t teach you the most important things you need to know like knowing God and being morally responsible.”

“You got a point there.”

“I heard weird noises that sounded like screaming last night next door. Did you?”

“We know of a bunch of thieves that steal people. They might be using this area of the city because the police usually keep away from here. You don’t want to know about it.”

“I’m old enough to know the worst of it. I know about kidnappers that steal people’s organs while they’re sleeping.”

“…Yeah. That’s the worst.”

“You have to do something about it.”

“We’re not sure if they’ll still be there. They usually move people during the night.”

“It doesn’t matter. You still have to save who’s there and bring the others to justice.”

“What happened to getting a normal job?”

“What happened to punishing the guilty and all that?”

“Fine, but we can’t make any promises. Stay here and don’t move until we come back. We should have an extra pistol in our large case. It’s non-lethal like the rest of our weapons.”

“I’m coming with you.”

“Absolutely not.”

“We’re connected. You can’t leave without me.”

“We left you when we got breakfast. Trust us on this. We know what we’re doing.”

“Okay. Come back safe and sound.”

“Thanks, and stay put.”

“Alright.”

Why don’t we do anything about the members of the thieves’ network that do things like kidnap people, Simon?

It’s a trust between thieves. I don’t mess with you and you don’t mess with me.

Should that really stop us from doing the right thing?

No, especially since we have other thieves after us.

This looks like a good building to do horrible things in secret.

I have the signal jammer on so they can’t call for help.

Let’s do this hard and fast.

Right. This doesn’t look like what we thought it would be.

Yeah. They do just sell organs.

At least we won’t have to lie to him.

There were only seven people in the building.

Well, it is the perfect number.

Wait, did you hear a gunshot?

Oh no. Let’s hurry!

They got Curly! Dumb kid.

“Put your gun down freak or the kid-”

“You don’t leave your head exposed during a hostage situation. Take it from the experts. Are you okay, Alastair?”

“Hey, you called me by my real name!”

“Ow! We forgot we couldn’t hit you. What did we tell you?”

“I thought-”

“You thought stupid! You could’ve been killed! Are you sure you weren’t hurt? Let me take a look at you.”

“You would’ve felt it. I didn’t know you cared so much about me.”

“It’s uh-we’re in this weird situation together and we couldn’t imagine an innocent like you being hurt. Oh.”

Never thought he would hug us.

He’s a good kid, Simon.

“Thank you for rescuing me. I’ll be sure to listen to you from now on…on things you know.”

“You better. Now go back. We’ll take care of things from here.”

“Okay.”

We didn’t check the thieves’ network yesterday. Let’s see if they’re saying anything about us.

Here’s a computer we can use. Hmmm. People are only talking about the thieves who attacked us getting arrested and our base being blown up. Most aren’t too worried about us.

Good. Let’s call this into the police then leave.

We’re acting like real heroes now.

Like we weren’t before.

We weren’t in the mind of Alastair. He seems to know about being good people better than we do.

He does have good points, but we shouldn’t make going after other thieves a habit. Don’t even think about saying yes to him if he asks us again, Sylvia.

I know you won’t say no to him.

He won’t suggest we do it again. I guarantee it.

“What are you guys going to do for the rest of the day?”

“Keep our heads down as planned. Maybe we’ll consider getting “real” jobs like you said.”

“That’s amazing, but do you know of any other thieves you could go after before you do that?”

Ha. You were wrong. You owe me something.

We didn’t even bet on it!

“Why? I thought you wanted us to leave that life behind. Now you’re making us doing vigilante work?”

“Okay, this is the last one. I want to see that you really want to change.”

“And the first one didn’t show it along with all of our other actions?”

“You always go the extra mile.”

“Fine. One more. You’re lucky that there’s one more group of thieves operating in this area. It’s a bit further away from here so you’ll have to stay a while by yourself.”

“I’m coming with you.”

“What did we say before?!”

“You don’t have to scream. Isn’t there anything I could do to help you with?”

“Maybe. The place these guys are held up just so happens to be throwing an early afternoon party for a charity event they’re holding.”

“Charity event?”

“Thieves can be charitable too, kid.”

“Here we go with the kid thing again.”

“Our looks should come in handy, but you could sneak into different places during the party to do things for us.”

“Then let’s go. We’re both already dressed up for the party.”

“Hold on. You can’t just go like that. Let me put makeup on your face so that you really look like you’re part of the party.”

“Don’t draw anything stupid.”

“I wouldn’t do that. Let’s see…Almost done…and…there we go. What do you think?”

“I look like a crazy killer. One half with a light blue eye and a purple frown, the other half with an orange eye and red smile.”

“I think you look cute.”

“You have weird taste in boys, so I believe it.”

“Watch it, kid. I could hold you down and draw something different on you.”

“I’m kidding, Simon. I think you’re a cool kind of weird.”

I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or half of one.

He likes you Simon.

I think he likes you more.

I won’t argue with that.

“Do you guys have a plan?”

“We do. You’ll have to sneak past the party and go to the power room to disable the power. We’ll be locking down the building and giving the authorities a nice present, even though some of the people are their own.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Distract everyone with our charming personality then make an escape route for us.”

“A very general plan, but I guess I should trust you on this.”

“We got this, Curly. Don’t you worry about it.”

“Are you sure you’re fine going out like this without covering your face? People are staring.”

“Hey, are you going to the costume party downtown?”

“We are.”

“I love your mask. How did you get it to be like…like you have it?”

“Mechanics and very fine cloth. It’s a delicate thing that you probably shouldn’t touch.”

“Don’t worry about it. It kind of freaks me out how realistic it looks to be honest. No offense.”

“None taken. So why are you going to the party?”

“To get more contacts within business and government. A bunch of medium to big names will be there today. Why are you going?”

“Same as you.”

“Then you heard about the rumors of some of the people there being thieves?”

“The greedy ones are always called thieves.”

“No, I mean literal thieves, as in, they steal for a living.”

“I always hear about businesses and governments doing that, but they don’t get what they deserve. At least not in this life.”

“I know. I’m just saying we should be careful about who you talk to.”

“We will. We know who’s going to be there.”

“You seem to know your stuff. What’s your name? Mine’s Walter.”

“Siylviaon. I mean, Simon.”

“Nice to meet you, Simon. I hope to do business with you in the future.”

“Same to you.”

Do you think that guy could be trouble, Simon?

Nah, but he may be obvious to what’s really happening at the party. We may have to get him out of it when the cops show up.

“Huh? What is it, Curly?”

“Do you know what I’m thinking?”

“We are.”

“Oh, is this your kid?”

“Yes.”

“I like his makeup.”

“You seem like a good parent.”

“Thanks.”

We seem like a good parent?

We’ve only been with Curly for a day, but he’s attached to us and we’re growing close to him.

It’s the attachment that God put between us. He’s forcing us to take a liking us to each other.

It’s also because we’re trying to get along in this situation. He’s a good kid and we’re trying to be good caretakers.

But parents?

I don’t know.  He seems to have forgiven us already for accidentally killing his parents.

We have to ask him later.

Let’s take him out after this so we can do that.

“Wow! Look at all the colorful lights in the luxury apartment.”

“It’s great, ain’t it? The ugliest of people hide in the prettiest of lights. Let’s get this done and then we’ll treat you.”

“Alright.”

“Okay, Curly. You ready for sneaking?”

“Ready.”

“Remember, the power generator should be in the bottom floor. Put this device on it and the power should shut down completely. No one can remove it without permanently damaging the generator.”

“This won’t hurt me, will it?”

“You might feel a small shock, but that’s it. Come back upstairs when the power is off.”

And there he goes.

Our little troublemaker.

How are we going to distract everyone here? It doesn’t seem like anyone wants to talk to us.

We just distract them with our looks. People are already looking at us.

He just entered the basement. It shouldn’t be too long now. I wonder what they have to drink and eat here.

It doesn’t look like much.

Rich people food always look appealing but there’s never much to it. Remember that one time we got steaks on a menu that cost eighty dollars? It was just that and mashed potatoes.

That was a rip-off. We’ve had dinners that cost eighty dollars that filled us up more. Oh? Curly did it.

Everyone is confused. We should get moving.

Here he comes.

“You did great, Curly. We’re proud of you.”

“Thanks, but what about-”

“Almost forgot. Thanks for reminding us. Hey, Walter.”

“What’s going on Simon?”

“Nothing good. You should follow us.”

“Why-Hey, don’t pull on my suit too hard. It cost me a paycheck.”

“We know a way out of the building. Don’t bring anyone along.”

“You guys didn’t do this, did you?”

“Not directly.”

“Why should I trust you? Ugh!”

“Because we’re going to save your life.”

“You didn’t have to knock him out.”

“It was going to be difficult for him to do this next part.”

“What’s the next part?”

“Hold on. Yes, operator? There’s a luxury apartment with a dozen or so people that you have on your wanted list. There’s a bomb about to go off! Hurr-Close your ears, Curly.”

“What? Woah! Won’t the others be able to escape from here? Not if they want to climb down twelve stories with their bare hands.”

“So how are we going to get down?”

“You see this backpack we have?”

“Oh no.”

“Sit on Walter. We’ll hold you as we descend down.”

“Have you ever done this before?”

“Yes.”

Yes, as in jumping out of a high building. Not like this though.

We still got this.

You bet.

“Comfortable?”

“No.”

“Let’s go then. Woah!”

“Woooooooah!”

“Relax Curly or else you’ll fall. Just hold onto us. We’ll be on the nearby rooftop in no time.”

“Ehhhhhhhhhh.”

“Oh, stop it you big baby. Hahaha. We’re safe already.”

“Oh thank God. I’ll never take my life for granted again.”

“Let’s get out of here.”

Oh, hide our face.

“Did you guys escape that explosion? We saw it from our window and came up here to get a better view.”

“We didn’t, but get this guy, Walter, someplace to rest. He’s been skydiving a bit too much.”

“Oh, sure.”

“That was something else you guys.”

“Are we redeemed in your eyes now?”

“I think you are. Besides, I don’t want to do anything like that ever again.”

“We’re glad. Let’s reward ourselves then.”

“Where are we going?”

“We know of this great garden that you could eat lunch and dinner at. It’ll be a nice place to rest our minds at.”

“I’ll take anything good after this.”

This should perfectly make him comfortable for what we’re going to ask him.

I hope he won’t get mad at us.

He would’ve shown it by now.

But we’re still connected to each other like this.

Maybe it’s our punishment for what we did as thieves.

Do we really have to stay like this until we die?

You don’t like being with me like this?

It’s not that.

If you knew what we did, then I guess this seems justified.

Then we’ll stay like this.

It’ll be difficult.

As long as Curly and you are happy, it’ll be worth it.

Stole the words right from my mind.

“This place is amazing.”

“This is where I proposed to Sylvia. We haven’t been here in years.”

“I can see why. It looks like a great place to set the mood. So, what are we getting to eat?”

“We uh…want to ask you something first.”

“What is it?”

“Try to keep this down. Do you still hate us for accidentally killing your parents?”

“…”

Uh oh. I don’t like awkward silences.

Say something, Sylvia.

“We’re sorry for what we did. We’ll take of you to the best of our abilities and get whatever you want to make it up to you.”

“…”

“If you want us to bring you to a better family, then we’ll do that.”

“I don’t hate you.”

“You don’t? Why not?”

“It wasn’t your fault. I can’t blame you for it.”

“Don’t you want to still hate us from taking you away from your comfortable life? You were set in terms of wealth and possessions.”

“I know, but I have to let that go. Besides, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

“Oh, that’s right. Do you want us to leave you with a better family? You must have friends and other family members that will happily take you in. We’re just a poor couple with no job, no house, and a dwindling bank account.”

“Didn’t I answer this before? God put us together, so I’m staying with you. It doesn’t matter if you’re poor or stuck together like you are. This is the way things are meant to be now.”

He’s set on us.

I’m not sure if I should cry or not.

Don’t, Sylvia because you’re going to make me cry too.

“Hey, who else has parents like I do? My parents are so cool that they redeemed themselves after being one of the most infamous thieving couples. I think I have the coolest parents ever.”

“You’re right we’re the coolest. Now, let’s get something to eat.”

“I saw a breakfast store here. I want ice cream and pancakes.”

“We think that’s a great idea. We’ll have the same.”

 

 

There is no place for selfishness and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice.

-Pope John Paul II

Chapter 3 – A Family that Sacrifices Together, Stays Together

Simon, look at him smiling while he’s sleeping. I love it. I know you won’t say anything about it because it would make you sound weird.

What do you want me to say? The only thing I can pull from your mind is something positive, which is incredibly general.

You don’t understand at all, do you? Maybe it’s a motherly thing.

You’re not even his mother or one to begin with. What do you know about it?

I know that I’m feeling it. Do you think he’ll ever call us his parents?

I don’t know. It’s best not to get your hopes up.

He seemed to like what we got him yesterday. We should get it again for him.

I guess it’s better than nothing. Remember that we’re running out of money.

We’re good for a while. I pickpocketed some money at the party if you didn’t notice.

That’s great, but don’t let Curly know. We’re supposed to stop being thieves.

That’s right. We have to start becoming a real family.

If we really want to become his family, you’ll need to learn how to cook.

And you’ll have to learn how to be a real man and work.

You’ll have to come with me to work.

And you’ll have to learn how to cook with me.

What do you think we should make first?

He really liked those ice cream pancakes yesterday.

Breakfast sounds like a great idea. It’s the kind of meal that can be served at any time of day.

I’m full of great ideas, aren’t I?

You are. Hey, doesn’t that guy over there look familiar?

He does. I think we’ve seen him on the thieves’ network before.

The three thief groups being arrested should’ve been big news. Maybe they suspect us of double-crossing them because we are the only ones who haven’t been arrested yet or they might think we’re colluding with the authorities.

That’s true. We should get back to Alastair fast and get out of here.

They’ll think we’ve betrayed them if they catch us with him. We have to draw them away, get rid of them, and then haul out of this city.

Aren’t they experts in following people? Won’t they know if we’re leading them into a trap?

We’ll have to take a chance to protect Alastair. You ready?

Ready.

Let’s go to that one alleyway that leads into the building with the kidnappers. That’s right. Keep following us. Okay, so it looks like there’s three of them. Almost there. Where should we hide-Oh!

There were already two of them looking through this building.

Thankfully our reactions are still sharp.

Their friends are outside calling them now. They won’t come in until they respond.

Maybe we should use their friend’s unconscious body like a puppet. Lure them in that way.

That’s not going to work.

I know you don’t have a better plan let alone a plan at all.

Okay, we’ll go with that.

This is so stupid.

But it just might work.

Peek out. What can you see?

They’re confused but the three are coming this way.

Okay, now let’s use this guy as a body shield once they come in. And…action! One, two, three! That’s all of them.

You owe me again.

We didn’t bet-Let’s just get back to Alastair.

Do you think there’s more of them?

Probably. We have minutes before they converge on this area.

Let’s hurry up then!

I can’t make our legs move faster! That only stalls us.

Just try to think positively then.

“Alastair! We need to go!”

“What’s going on?”

“There’s a thieving group that might be after us. We aren’t taking any chances so pack your things and let’s go-damn! Get down, Alastair! Ack! Get off us!”

“Wow. What happened to you two?”

“None of your business, just let go of our kid!”

“Did the kid’s parents have some kind of special weapon to use on you? Did they do a kind of special surgery?”

“We said it’s none of your business!”

“I love the “we” routine you got going on there. I’ll tell you what. Because I respect your work and you so much, I’ll take the kid off your hands, maybe sell him to a rich family in a foreign country. You’ll thank me later. In the meantime, we’ll try to get you fixed up. Let’s get’em back to base boys.”

…Where are we?

We’re strapped to some surgery table.

We have to get out of here fast!

Maybe we can combine our strength to break these binds.

These binds are too tough!

Are you going to make that stop us? Alastair is in trouble. I can feel it. He’s going to be sold off or worse if we don’t do anything now.

You’re right.

“Rahhhh!!!!”

That’s right! We did it! Look how shocked they-oh boy.

Get down! We have to do something to stop them from firing at us.

What’s this stuff?

Medical stuff? Looks flammable. Let’s throw it at them. Woah!

They’re explosive too!

Really explosive.

I think we broke something important in the building. We might need this fireproof jacket for later.

Let’s take the rest of these.

Yeah keep running from us and our explosive …whatever it is! Uh oh.

I think we accidentally hit the power room. The building might be catching fire now.

That’s good and bad. Let’s make the most of it and find our weapons.

Here we go. We’re going full auto shotgun mode. This’ll give them a real headache when they wake up after getting hit from these rounds.

Now we’re ready. Where do you think they’re holding Alastair?

Top floor?

I’m not betting on it. Plus, it doesn’t really matter. We’re clearing this place out until we get to him.

Move out the way! Two pissed off parents coming through!

That’s right! Two heads are better than one!

We have one head.

It’s a technicality.

Whatever. There’s the guy that took us here! He’s got Alastair.

“Let go of our kid and you might live.”

“You guys don’t kill unless you need to. I know your history. Agh!”

“We don’t kill but we do hurt. Are you okay Alastair?”

“I’m okay. How are we going to do this? How did the building catch fire?”

“It doesn’t matter. We’ll care you through this. Here, we’ll wrap you up in this fireproof jacket, so the fire doesn’t touch your skin. Keep your head down.”

“What about you?”

“We’re going to be fine. All that matters to us is your safety. Trust us.”

“Okay.”

The flames are really tearing through this building, but we have to make it through this.

It’s so intense in here. I don’t know if we can make it.

We have to for our sake and Alastair’s. We have to give him the family he deserves. We put him in this situation and we’re taking him out of it.

I feel so strange.

Keep going! We’re going to make it!…Sylvia? Can you hear me? You see the exit? We’re going to make it! Just give it one final push and…we’re out! Smell that fresh air of victory and…woah.

“Simon, we’re back to normal.”

“But how?”

“You putting yourself at risk for me must’ve satisfied God. It was a literal trial of fire.”

“Thank you, God, for having mercy on us.”

“Oh, the firefighters are coming. Let’s get out of here. What are we going to do now? We’re flat broke with no home and nothing to our name.”

“That’s fine as long as we’re together.”

“Are you sure, Alastair?”

“We’re used to the homeless life, but you…”

“You’re my parents now. I don’t care as long as we love each other.”

“Alastair!”

“…I’m a father now…”

“Don’t cry or else you’re going to make me cry too.”

“You’re right. We’re going to be the best parents ever. We promise you that.”

“Are our minds still connected? Because you just took the words right out of my mouth.”

“I love you, mom and dad.”

“We love you too, son.”

 

The End

It is worthwhile to live as a family, that a society grows strong, grows in goodness, grows in beauty and truly grows if it is built on the foundation of the family.” – Pope Francis